Waiting for God


"Smooth" was the judgment of the six o’clock news bulletins on Tuesday night as the first day of World Youth Day celebrations concluded with George Pell’s opening mass. The same could not be said for the beginning of the day with eager volunteers locked out of the call centre and headquarters for event registration at Albion Street church. The volunteers were told to arrive at 7:00 am but were forced to wait for two hours before late management and supervisors arrived to open the centre at 9:00 am.

Tempers were still high when newmatilda.com‘s World Youth Day Pilgrim arrived at 3:30pm to complete his registration. One volunteer remonstrated with a supervisor, "This can’t happen again! We wasted time!"

Time was important to German Pilgrim "Kohler", who, having just stepped off a plane, didn’t know that she required registration to attend WYD events. "I had no idea", she said. "I only hope I have enough time to get to [evening]mass."

Unfortunately for the 20-something strong work force at the call centre, Kohler was not the only bewildered pilgrim. Scores of pilgrims have arrived in Australia without any idea about the complicated and costly registration service. Operator "Joe" let off steam as we both struggled with my registration. "I can’t imagine how a grandma, maybe without the internet, would be able to do this. Heaps of people have called up having just arrived, with no idea – some were even still looking for accommodation."

The confusion was made even clearer in the conversation of another call operator with a disabled pilgrim who had paid the $335 for full week registration. She explained "Sorry, we’ve never said we would be able to send it [the pass]to you." She then informed the pilgrim that they would have to go – or find someone else to go – to Grafton Street to collect their pass and backpack before they could attend any events.

While Kohler made it to evening mass, it’s unknown how many missed the event, or how many pilgrims still roam the streets unregistered.

The Pilgrim is newmatilda.com’s World Youth Day correspondent. Stay tuned for daily updates.

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